19 February 2019
The criminal court in the capital Male ordered Monday that former Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom be arrested and held in custody on suspicion of money laundering. Police said investigators found illegal payments totalling around $1 million in Yameen’s bank account which was allegedly siphoned off government money through a private company that has been implicated in corrupt deals involving lease of islands for hotel projects. Preliminary hearings in his trial are scheduled to begin this week.
The former President later refused to return the money when ordered by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, and instead “conducted financial transactions from which he obtained profit”, the police said in a statement earlier this month.
At a remand hearing on Monday, prosecutors alleged the former president, tried to bribe a witness in the prosecution’s case to change their testimony, according to the news websites Mihaaru and Avas.
Yameen told reporters in January that the one million dollars deposited to his private account at the Maldives Islamic Bank was given to him as campaign funds. The money was his, he added, saying he did not return the amount because there was no proof it was government money. Deutsche Welle reported.
On 14 February 2019, the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) published a list of 155 individuals and companies and the amounts each had received from a private bank used as a conduit for illicit payments. The main account belonged to the music group Scores of Flair, comprised of the former tourism minister and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor and his friends. Those named as receiving payments include politicians from across the political spectrum.
Mariyam Shiuna, executive director of Transparency Maldives said that the heads of Maldives Monetary Authority, Bank of Maldives, Maldives Islamic Bank and the board members of MMPRC should be investigated.
The government should also strengthen the country’s banking system to make it less susceptible to abuse for corrupt purposes, according to Transparency Maldives. Legal action to recover money and property stolen from the public should also start immediately. Transparency.org reported.